All it takes is one phone call, one text, one email and your life could change forever.
Have you heard that?
On January 30, 2012, I got that text. I’d been at a winter retreat with my church’s youth. I came home on a spiritual high.
I woke up that Monday on top of the world. All seemed to be well with my soul.
Then, a text. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t stand. I calmly slid to the bathroom floor and called my pastor. He was on his way.
This is not the life I signed up for. This was not the dream Disney movies promised. This was not supposed to happen to ME – maybe others – but not me.
I serve you, Lord. I love you. I help others. I am a good mom and wife. I love my family. Come on…this can’t be. It simply can’t be.
I knew better than to engage in this line of thinking. I deserve death for my sin, nothing else. But, I couldn’t stop this argument with God.
That’s really all I recall about the day. I remember sitting with my pastor in a room at my church – a room I still don’t like to enter. That’s it.
What was the event? I know, I know. I’ve been promising to share that for a few months. And God has said… wait. I’ve written the post again and again, but each time it feels “off.”
I know I will share. I know that God will tell my story to help others and glorify Him.
If I share the event today, then the WHAT will overshadow the WHO.
My “story” is a story of how God’s redeeming my life (most are). Notice I said “redeeming” not “redeemed” – I am still in process. Still walking with Jesus daily, trying not to “fix” and “correct” but to rest in his love and grace.
As I reflect on this year, I am amazed at all God’s taught me about Him, relationships, and myself. But, if I had to choose one lesson to share, it would be this: God has to be your center. He must be the source of your identity and self-worth – nothing and no one else.
Your life must me centered on Him and Him alone.
Have you heard that before? I bet so. I had. Many times. But, until God walked me through suffering and placed me in situations that were simply unbelievable, I found my worth in self, titles, and others.
Remember that argument I had with God in the bathroom floor? I serve you, Lord. I love you. I help others. I am a good mom and wife. I love my family.
Each sentence begins with…I. Me. Sarah. And THAT was the heart issue I needed to address. While my motive was often love of God and thankfulness to Him, it wasn’t always. Sometimes my motive was “look how smart I am” or “watch me fix this situation.”
I’ve spent 364 days leaning into him, making him center, messing up, repenting, and leaning back into him. My tendency is still to fix and solve. My tendency is still to save the world. I love others more than ever and their pain becomes mine. I hate to see the suffering of others. I just want to fix it.
But, I have finally come to the end of myself. I am finally resting in a place in which I know I can fix nothing. I can be God’s vessel for helping others to seek Him and restore their lives. That’s it.
Information and 10-step programs are great. They’re wise and may be helpful. Yet, if those are center and not Jesus, change will be temporary at best. True change only comes when you allow Jesus to transform your heart.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
So, here’s my story: God knew my heart issues. God had a bigger and better plan for my life. God knew I would never fully live for Him and serve Him until He transformed my heart. So, God allowed. He didn’t create the situation – sinful humans did. But, he worked all things together for good. He used devastation to bring hope and healing.
He made a new Sarah – and He still is making me and all things new.
Some days I fall back. On Sunday, I went to my car after church. One of the reasons for my suffering – whom I’ve not spoken to in months – left a devotional about hope with a note on my car. Remember, I had just returned from a retreat – on a spiritual high – overflowing with Jesus.
I picked up the book, having no idea who placed it on my car. I opened it and read the note. In that moment, I had two choices. React out of my humanness (throw the book across the church parking lot and ask God why He won’t keep this person out of my life) or pray for the heart who purchased the book, wrote the note, and took time to find my car and leave it there. Pray for the one who helped turn my life upside down. Pray for the turmoil rising up in me, asking God to step in.
I chose to pray. And weep. For myself, for the others involved, for the brokenness of this world, and for the things that can’t be unsaid or unseen. And in that moment, God showed up…again. He brought memorized verses to mind. He gave me a friend who I texted on and off throughout the evening and night. A friend who never once tried to “fix” or give answers– she just kept speaking Jesus back to me.
You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house. 1 Peter 2:5
I have a friend who lost his job, a fortune, his wife, and his home. But he tenaciously held to his faith in Christ – the only thing he had left. Like Job in the Old Testament, he would not abandon God, no matter what happened. And yet, like Job, he couldn’t help but wonder why.
One day he stopped to watch some men doing stonework on a huge church. One of them was chiseling a triangular piece of stone. “What are you going to do with that? asked my friend. The workman said, “See that little opening away up there near the spire? Well, I am shaping this down here so it will fit in up there.”
Tears filled my friend’s eyes as he walked away, for it seemed that God has spoken through the workman to explain the ordeal through which he was passing: “I’m shaping you down here, so you’ll fit up there.” From HOPE for each day by Billy Graham
He’s shaping us down here, so we’ll fit up there. He’s transforming our hearts and lives to glorify Him. How humbling to know he loves us so much that he desires to change us so we’ll become more and more like Him.
This past year was tough. But, I consider God’s refinement a blessing. He’s set me free from the number one contentment killer: comparison. He set me free from competition, so I can faithfully live out my calling and serve Him. He set me free to be me. The me HE made me to be, not the me I made.
And, He won’t relent until He has it all. For that, I am thankful.
I don’t know what you’re walking through today. I don’t know what you’ve been through or what God is about to allow in your life. But, I know this. He’s there in the mess ready to teach, transform, redeem, and restore. Growing you closer and closer to Him. There’s HOPE.